World Religion
What Is Sikhism?

What Is Sikhism?
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.72

     challenging words:    banyan, chakker, double-edged, granth, Kacha, Kangah, Kesa, Kirpan, kirpans, caste, dagger, majority, society, unity, homeland, reality
     content words:    Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Nanak, His Muslim, After Nanak, With Sikhism, Practicing Sikhs, Devout Sikhs

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What Is Sikhism?
By Brenda B. Covert

1     Sikhism is an Eastern religion based in India. The founder was Guru Nanak Dev, who lived from 1469 -1538. He was born in the Punjab area of what is now known as Pakistan. His parents were Hindus, his father worked for Muslims, and Nanak grew up surrounded by other Hindu and Muslim children. He was gifted and asked lots of questions. Guru Nanak shocked the society of the time when he declared that women were the equals of men and should have the same rights as men.
2     The story goes that one day the 30-year-old husband and father of two young boys went out to bathe in the river. His Muslim musician friend, Mardana, had gone with him. After Nanak went under, he didn't come back up. Everyone thought that he had drowned and searched fruitlessly. Then, three days later, he suddenly appeared in the spot where he had disappeared. It is believed that he spent those three days with God. Afterwards, his mission in life became spreading God's message. He said, "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim." He gave up his job and gave away all his possessions. Mardana went with him and played music for Guru Nanak to use as he spread his message in song to the people. He and his followers built the first Sikh temple in Katarpur.
3     Guru Nanak shared wisdom about many things. The story is told that during one of their journeys, Mardana asked why innocent people were put to death along with the guilty. "Wait under this banyan tree," Nanak said. "I have an errand, but I will return soon to answer your question." While he was gone, Mardana received an ant bite. Mardana hopped up and angrily stomped on the ants. At that moment Nanak chose to return. "Now you know, Mardana, why the innocents suffer along with the guilty."
4     The name of the religion means learner, and Guru Nanak's followers had a lot to learn. In both Hinduism and Islam, women were looked upon as property; Sikhism taught that men and women were equals and that women should have the same rights in the community, temple, and war. In both Hinduism and Islam, women wore veils; Sikhism freed women from being hidden behind a veil. Other beliefs include the worship of one God who cannot take human form, honesty, and the equality of all people. Guru Nanak denounced the caste system. With Sikhism, no one is regarded more highly than another. Sikhism also tried to do away with superstitions and meaningless rituals. Followers of Sikhism look to the holy granth (the Sikh text) for the wisdom of the ten gurus (nine of whom are regarded as reincarnations of the first guru). The holy text itself is considered to be the eleventh guru. Included with the hymns and writings of the Sikh gurus are writings from several Hindu and Muslim saints.
5     Practicing Sikhs are forbidden to worship idols or icons. They repeat prayers each day. They don't drink alcohol, nor do they smoke. Devout Sikhs also adhere to what are called the five K's.

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